Quarterback Jordan Love’s task this season is to help Utah State return to prominence
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love (10) throws a pass against New Mexico during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Logan • Utah State coach Matt Wells didn’t plan on Jordan Love being an option at quarterback last season, not with incumbent starter Kent Myers back for his senior season.
But Love was so good in spring football and preseason camp, he essentially forced Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost to incorporate Love into the offense.
“It was apparent that we had to give Jordan a series and some reps with games in the balance,” Wells said.
Wells didn’t plan on Love playing well enough in limited time to take over the starting job during a redshirt freshman season when he was supposed to be learning. But, take over the starting job he did.
“Once we did give him some reps, every time he went into games, he made things happen,” Wells said. “That was tough to ignore.”
Now comes the hard part for Jordan Love. The starting quarterback for the most anticipated Utah State team in recent seasons is all his now. He’s the clear starter headed into his sophomore year. He’s no longer a curiosity.
He’ll have weapons and a dynamic supporting cast. All five starters on the offensive line return. Dax Raymond is one of the best tight ends in the Mountain West Conference. Ron’quavion Tarver is a potential game-breaker at wide receiver on almost every play.
But, it will have to start with Love. His acclimation from freshman to team leader as a sophomore won’t be easy. At the same time, he feels the unexpected experience he garnered last season figures to be a big help as he matures.
MEET JORDAN LOVE
• Started the final six games last season for Utah State, throwing for 1,631 yards and eight touchdowns
• Was once named the the Mountain West’s offensive player of the week as a freshman
• Is one of four children and is from Bakersfield California
• Is majoring in exercise science
Wells and Yost think the transformation will happen. Love displayed a poise in the pocket beyond his years as a freshman. He also displayed a big arm, a fearless mentality in making his throws and a command of the offense the coaching staff didn’t expect to be there.
More importantly, Love has displayed an ability to progress and improve. He was better last year in the fall than in spring ball, Wells said. He was better during the season than he was in fall camp. And Wells called him a “different player” this year in spring ball.
“I feel a big difference this season,” Love said. “I’m more comfortable just knowing the plays and knowing the system. I’m more comfortable with the ball and being in the pocket.”
Like Myers and like Chuckie Keeton before him, Love was able to make a splash early in his career. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Love threw for 1,631 yards a season ago. He threw for eight touchdowns, but also tossed six interceptions. The question becomes if Love can expand on early success in the manner that Keeton did. Before multiple knee injuries, Keeton was one of the better quarterbacks in the country, leading USU to a national ranking and starting all 13 games in 2012.
For Love to reach similar heights, he needs to be more efficient in the passing game and he knows this. Last season, his completion percentage was 56.8, something he knows has to improve. He threw three interceptions in a 28-23 loss to Wyoming and struggled at times with reads and check-downs.
“I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be,” Love said. “I missed some throws, and that’s something I’m trying to improve on. I’m more comfortable in the pocket right now, and that’s something that’s important to me.”
His biggest adjustment may be the transformation to a leadership role. Love is a naturally quiet person. He warms up to you as a person once he gets to know you. Initially, however, he’s reserved, even a little shy.
He has to be different on the field and in the huddle. Utah State’s offense requires reads and adjustments on the fly. The Aggies have dynamic personalities in the huddle, but Love’s voice has to be the loudest and most commanding.
The sophomore from Bakersfield, Calif., adopted a seen-but-not-heard mentality for much of last season. But, for Utah State to get to a Mountain West title this season — that’s the goal for the Aggies — Love knows he has to be a leader, and a vocal leader at that.
“The biggest thing for me is Jordan’s earned the right to be a leader this season,” Wells said. “I believe you earn that by production, and he was able to produce when given the opportunity. And he’s built on that during the offseason.”